Pearl-hungry parents in Ohio have forced a suburban school district outside Cincinnati to review a book so popular for its depiction of historical events that it was made into a movie.
According to a report by The Cincinnati Investigatorparents of students at Milford Exempted Village Schools want In the time of butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, on the chopping block due to her ‘sex and wickedness’ and her ‘unhealthy view of sexuality [and pornography]despite the novel’s historical relevance.
“THIS CONTENT IS EXPLICIT! Our 10th graders are forced to read this porn at school! Amy Boldt K posted on April 25 in the Milford OH Neighborhood Group on Facebook. “I am disgusted beyond words.”
In the message, the woman claimed that students at Milford High School were required to read the book aloud in class and she demanded that the teacher be removed. As an example of content she deemed inappropriate, Amy Boldt K provided a clip of a girl who bandages her breasts to keep them from growing, lest they bring her unwanted attention from men. She also added paragraphs about the book’s female protagonists who were sexually assaulted.
“This is only a small content of the book [sic]“, wrote the woman. “Are you still worried, parents?? It is time to act.
As of Monday afternoon, the post had over 700 comments and had been shared over 20 times.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Milford Exempted Village Schools acknowledged that administrators had received a “citizen’s request for reconsideration for [In the Time of the Butterflies] used in Grade 10 English Language Arts.
“Whenever the District receives such a request, the District will follow Board policy…which directs the Superintendent to convene a review committee,” Milford Communications Director Krista Boyle said in the statement. “This committee is made up of seven members, a mix of teachers, administrators and parents.”
On its website, the school board says it understands that some school publications can be controversial for students and, if parents wish, they can choose other reading material for their child that covers a similar ‘educational purpose’. . The district also says it does not authorize “any individual or group to exercise censorship over educational materials and library collections, but it recognizes that, at times, a reappraisal of certain materials may be desirable.”
In the time of butterflies is the fictional account of the Mirabal sisters, who protested against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the 1960s in the Dominican Republic. Inspired by real events, the book focuses on the deadly massacres and human rights horrors of Trujillo’s authoritarian rule, the sisters’ opposition to his leadership, and their alleged killings by government troops. The novel was adapted into a film in 2001 which was rated PG-13.
Boyle told The Daily Beast that the novel embraces themes of “magical realism and metafiction” in human nature and raises the question of how trauma is passed on to future generations.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Alvarez’s agent Stuart Bernstein said the author was “appalled” by the fury, considering she had personally experienced Trujillo’s “repressive dictatorship”.
“[It was a time] where reading books was considered suspicious, where many books were banned,” she said.
Despite the fact that the novel deals with real events, some members of the Milford community thought it was too much.
“Wow! This was rated R,” a member of the neighborhood Facebook group commented on Amy Boldt K’s post regarding the excerpt. “I can understand why kids would be uncomfortable reading this ! wtf.
“This is more than inappropriate!!” another member replied.
However, other members of the community and former students have praised Alvarez’s novel.
“Bro, this book is totally fine and not graphic at all,” Miri Lawrence posted. “When I was in 10th grade, it was truly a valuable learning experience for me. It’s one of the only books I’ve read and I still cherish it so much. Don’t tell the principal of stop giving away this book because it is so special and precious.Your children will be much more cultured after reading it.
“When I read this book in high school, I loved it,” wrote Ashley Honsaker, a 2018 Milford High School graduate. “I thought it was a great book of historical fiction about Trujillo and the Republic. Dominican girl at that time. And honestly, I didn’t even think twice about the sexual aspects of this one, other than what it had to say about the history and how sex was perceived at that time.
In a Facebook post to The Daily Beast, Honsaker, now a senior graphic design student, said she loved reading the book as a sophomore in high school.
“It was insightful and helped me understand what life was like in the Dominican Republic in the 1900s,” she said. “The main lesson I took from reading the book was a different perspective on world culture. … As a young woman, it was great to see a historical fiction novel that revolved around women at a time when they were not always respected or equalized.
Honsaker said she believed the uproar was because people didn’t really understand the context of what was being written.
“I also think parents sometimes override and hold their kids back,” she said. “It is extremely sad that in today’s society we teach our children not to judge a book by its cover and to be fair and just, but so many parents in my community are doing the exact opposite.”
Other members of the Facebook group ridiculed reviewers for disagreeing with the novel’s content without actually reading it or finding an alternative book suitable for their children, per district policy.
“Before posting publicly, I really think a conversation with the school would have been more appropriate,” wrote a member of the Facebook group. “I would also suggest to those who haven’t already read the book in question. I feel like too many people just jump on social media without doing their due diligence.
Milford Exempted Village Schools told the Daily Beast that its review committee is reading In the time of butterflies and is expected to complete its review by May 13.